Explore Morocco’s Blue City
Located on the slopes of Morocco’s Jebel Ech Chaouen – the two-horned mountain – Chefchaouen is referred to alternatively as the ‘Holy City’, due to its many religious buildings, or the ‘Blue City’, being a reference to the blue-tinged whitewashed houses with their blue doors and shutters lining a network of cobblestoned alleyways. The town was established in the 15th century as a stronghold to defend this part of the Moroccan coastline against invasion by the Portuguese. Today it is a charming destination well worth exploring as an alternative to the city-style hustle and bustle of Marrakech, Casablanca and Fez.
The town’s circular-shaped Mohammed V square features ceramic and wrought iron benches, a colorful flower garden, laurel roses and orange trees – the perfect place to relax. On Monday and Thursday mornings there is a market place on the Chari Al Khattabi Avenue where merchants sell spices, fabrics, crafts and more. With its narrow streets and beautifully kept houses, many with brightly colored flowers on their patios and in window-boxes, the Chefchaouen medina is interesting to stroll through, as is the merchants’ quarter. Shopping at the town’s little bazars, visitors will come across a host of locally made crafts, with leatherwork being one of the crafts Chefchaouen is well-known for.
A covered passageway off Avenue Hassan II leads to the historic Kasbah with its café’s, shops and vendors offering traditional Moroccan food and snacks, along with endless cups of sweet mint tea. Upon climbing to the top of the Kasbah’s tower, visitors will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the medina. The building houses the Andalusian Museum and has a dungeon that once served as a prison, with one of its more famous occupants being the Riffian Amazigh leader Abd al-Karim al-Khattabi in 1926. The museum collection includes displays of local costumes with intricate embroidery, musical instruments, weapons, pottery and wooden caskets. Alongside the Kasbah is the 15th century Grand Mosque, with an old caravanserai across the road housing a restaurant.
There are a number of walking trails around Chefchaouen for nature enthusiasts, with the trail to the Pont de Dieu and the Laou Valley being a popular option, as well as the Talassemtane forest with its cedar, oak and pine trees. Certainly this picturesque town in Morocco has much to offer.